Service With A Smile

Northern Wasco County PUD’s newest employees joined the utility’s customer service department in May

By Rodger Nichols

Northern Wasco County PUD customer service representative Juan Hernandez and his wife, Katelyn, have made their home among family in The Dalles. Photo courtesy of Juan Hernandez

Juan Hernandez was born in Hood River, but his family moved to The Dalles when he was 10.

“I’ve worked in customer service pretty much my whole life,” he says.

That experience began right after high school with a job at the local Bi-Mart outlet, where Juan worked until going off to Oregon State University in the fall.

After a year, Juan moved back to The Dalles to work for Grocery Outlet. Higher education called again, this time to Western Oregon University.

“During college, I took a job selling shoes at Foot Locker in Salem,” Juan says. “That’s how I discovered that I really liked working with the public.”

When one of his Foot Locker managers became an assistant manager at AT&T, he took Juan with him.

“I became a floating manager,” Juan says. “I got to cover stores all along the coast, all around Portland, as far south as Corvallis and as far east as Redmond. I got to travel quite a bit with it, and I got to meet and enjoy people.”

About the time his wife, Katelyn, graduated from WOU as an early childhood education major, an AT&T store management job opened in Hood River.

“It was perfect timing to move back home,” Juan says.

Eventually, he became manager of the AT&T store in The Dalles. But after seven years as store manager, he realized there wasn’t much room for advancement.

“District managers tended to hang around for 20 years,” Juan says. “That meant I wasn’t going to get a promotion anytime soon. I really wanted to work with a company where they pride themselves on employee development and really wanted to see the growth of their employees.”

Juan was hired at the PUD this spring as a customer service representative.

“It might seem like a lateral move, but just based off what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of room for growth here,” he says.

Katelyn teaches at Dry Hollow, and Juan says she loves her students.

“She’s the most passionate teacher I’ve ever seen,” he says.

The couple recently bought their first home, but they knew it intimately long before buying.

“Back in 2016, my wife’s parents sold that house to my parents,” Juan says. “Now my parents have sold it to us.”

When not helping customers at the PUD, Juan collects team jerseys.

Customer Service Representative Evelyn Wood enjoys supporting PUD customers as well as community members in need. Photo courtesy of Evelyn Wood

“I have them from all teams around the world,” he says. “All sports, you name it.”

But his most important activity is getting together with his large family.

“We do a lot of barbecues and enjoy each other’s company,” Juan says. “It’s a good life.”

Joining Juan as a customer service representative at NWCPUD is Evelyn Wood.

Evelyn was born in the Bronx, New York, but was raised in Puerto Rico.

“We moved back to the States when I was 14,” she says. “When I was 21, I moved to Florida, and from Florida, I moved to Oregon in 2007. I’ve been here ever since.”

Evelyn began working in the medical field with Endocrine Associates of Florida. When she became a single mom, she went to work for Orlando Nose and Throat of Florida.

When Evelyn remarried in 2007, she moved to Oregon to be with her husband, Michael, who works for WKO Forest Products as a shipping manager in Parkdale.

Evelyn smiles when she mentions his name.

“We balance each other out,” she says. “I’m very friendly and outgoing, and he’s very quiet. It really works well.”

Evelyn went to work at what used to be La Clinica del Cariño Family Health, which became One Community Health.

“My whole life, my whole career, has been in the medical field, until six years ago when I jumped over to the car business,” she says.

For Evelyn, that meant dealing with customers at Ray Schultens Motors instead of medical patients, but it was still customer service. She worked there for six years before the Schultens family sold the dealership earlier this year.

Evelyn says she was given the nickname “Firefighter” because she was so good at putting out fires and keeping people happy.

“When you’re dealing with the customer, you listen to what their concerns are and what they’re asking,” she says. “They need to know you’re paying attention.”

Evelyn says that’s how she feels about the people at the PUD.

“Everyone here has been great,” she says. “They’re very friendly, so eager to help and supportive. I really appreciate that.”

When she’s not helping customers, Evelyn is involved in a number of activities. She has been busy installing a backsplash in her kitchen. Cooking is a passion, particularly baking. She also enjoys reading the Bible and has taken Biblical lessons to heart.

“I like to make blessing bags for the homeless,” she says. “I used to do this at church, but since COVID, I started doing it myself.”

A blessing bag often includes gloves, socks, scarves, granola bars, water, beef jerky, nonperishable items, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.

“I also love single moms,” Evelyn says. “I help them out however I can, but I like to stay out of sight. I don’t need praise for what I do for the community.”

While not seeking praise, Evelyn hopes to inspire other people to support those in need.

Evelyn also makes care packages for her daughter, Brittany, and Brittany’s husband, Anthony, both of whom are in the military overseas.